Tag Archives: Washington State Legislature

A Highly Compelling Session: An Evaluation of the 2021 Washington State Legislature

by John Stafford


“The Legislature has just wrapped up an historic and truly extraordinary session. It has been the most innovative, having produced unprecedented and legacy making advances as all-encompassing as any session in the last 25 years.”

— Governor Jay Inslee, April 25, 2021

The Washington State Legislature has just completed its 2021 session — a 105-day event charged with passing three state budgets (operating, transportation and capital) and hundreds of policy bills, conducted exclusively online. From a liberal perspective, this has been an exciting and momentous session, with major legislative achievements in a wide range of areas.

I’ll evaluate the 2021 Legislative Session in 14 different areas: state budgets, tax reform, pandemic response, economic relief, housing and homelessness, K–12 education, health care, racial justice, criminal justice, gun control, labor, climate change, growth management act, and other, and give the session an overall grade. 

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What Became of the Legislature’s Big Plans for Police Reform?

by Paul Kiefer

(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


At the beginning of the legislative session in January, police accountability appeared to be front and center on many legislators’ agendas. By the time the session ended last Sunday, April 25, lawmakers had narrowed a broad array of police reform proposals to a core list of bills that expand the State’s role in police oversight and tactics, although some efforts to address gaps in police oversight — particularly police union contracts — fell short.

The agency that will play an enforcement role in the legislature’s police reform efforts is the state’s Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), a group of civilians and law enforcement officers appointed by the governor that has the power to issue — and revoke — licenses to work as a law enforcement officer in Washington. On Sunday, the legislature sent a bill to Gov. Jay Inslee that will expand the CJTC’s authority to investigate officers for misconduct and suspend or revoke their licenses, a process known as decertification.

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Washington Legislature Re-Criminalizes Drug Possession in Last Minute Vote

by Paul Kiefer

(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)


After a last-minute rush to pass legislation in response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in February that rendered the existing drug possession laws void, the Washington State Legislature passed new legislation on Saturday, April 24, re-criminalizing low-level drug possession by making it a misdemeanor and requiring local jurisdictions to provide treatment options for drug users. The bill, ESB 5476, directs law enforcement officers to divert people who violate the new law to “assessment, treatment, or other services” for the first two violations; after the second violation, a violator can be referred for prosecution and, potentially, a fine or jail.

After making compromises to pass the bill before the final day of the legislative session on Sunday, many lawmakers are not fully satisfied with the result. But had the legislature not passed a new law regulating drug possession, some lawmakers worried that a patchwork of local policies and enforcement practices would have filled the vacuum.

The decision that precipitated the scramble to adjust Washington’s drug possession laws, called State of Washington v. Blake, ruled that Washington’s so-called “strict liability” drug possession laws — which made no distinction between intentional and unintentional drug possession — violated the due process rights enshrined in both the state and federal constitutions.

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OPINION: Representation Matters

Why an economic recovery agenda shaped by those who have relied on government programs prioritizes investing in people

by Senator Joe Nguyen, 34th Legislative District


The headlines after several of us first-term legislators took office in 2019 proclaimed we were the “most diverse in state history,” and we should all be proud that we broke that record again after last year’s election. What hasn’t made the headlines, however, is the power of the advocacy we’ve witnessed from these legislators in conversations about how we should respond to the dire need felt by people in our communities. 

That powerful advocacy is what’s responsible for the progress we’ve made this session in crafting a budget that reflects our values. Budget policy isn’t academic; the decisions we make about how to spend the state’s resources can be the difference between whether someone eats or starves, or whether they keep a roof over their head or end up homeless during a global pandemic. 

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Last-Minute Bill in Legislature Would Limit Police Traffic Stops

by Paul Kiefer

(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an  agreement.)


When video of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter killing 20-year-old Duante Wright during a traffic stop started to circulate across the country, Sen. Joe Nguyen (D-34, West Seattle) realized that the slate of police reform legislation that went before the Washington State Legislature this year had a noticeable hole. “We talk all the time about driving while Black,” he said, “and for some reason, it just didn’t connect with me that we should just prevent cops from using minor violations as a way to stop and question people.”

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The 2021 Washington State Legislative Session: A Midway Review

by John Stafford


Introduction

The Washington State legislature is in the middle of its 2021 session, a 105-day session that convened on Jan. 11 and will end on April 25. This year’s session is being conducted via Zoom and will generate three budgets — an operating budget, a transportation budget, and a capital budget. These budgets are two-year documents. They will be created this year (2021) and then again in 2023. In addition to the budgets, more than 1,000 bills are being introduced and debated for potential passage. There are a series of cutoff dates for bills, and we have just passed the Mar. 9 deadline for bills (other than revenue bills) to pass their chamber of origin in order to remain alive.

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Ground-Breaking Police Accountability Bills Pass the House, Await Senate Consideration

by Chetanya Robinson


A bill that would ban law enforcement from using chokeholds and neck restraints on people, end no-knock warrants, and take military weapons out of police hands is up for a hearing in the Washington State Senate this week. Another would require police to de-escalate and use deadly force only when necessary, changing the standard currently enshrined in law.

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OPINION: Economic Equity Requires Bold Action From State Legislators

by Marilyn Watkins


Washington’s State Senate has taken a major step toward a more just and lasting recovery from COVID-19 with passage of a new tax on extraordinary profits from the sale of stocks and other assets of the super-rich. Revenue generated from individuals who have continued to rake in wealth during the pandemic will help fuel the urgently needed rescue of families and small businesses and provide a start toward the long-term investments in child care, public health, and other supports our communities need to thrive.

If Senate Bill (SB) 5096 makes it past additional legislative hurdles to final passage, it will generate over $500 million annually from 8,000 or so of Washington’s wealthiest residents. The first $350 million of new public funds will go into the education legacy trust fund to finance childcare and early learning, K–12 education enhancements, and college access. Revenues beyond that will go into the general fund to support other priorities such as public health and housing and into a new taxpayer fairness account where it could finance the Working Families Tax Credit and other relief for lower-income households.

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With Washington’s Drug Possession Law Gone, Lawmakers at Odds Over Next Steps

by Ben Adlin


On Wednesday of last week, it was a felony in Washington to possess illegal drugs — even if you didn’t know you had them. A day later, it wasn’t. After a sweeping Washington Supreme Court ruling declared the state’s felony drug possession law unconstitutional, there’s currently no penalty on the books in Washington State for drug possession.

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